Archives For Game Recap

Luke Walton was not happy after Thursday’s game against the Kings. That might seem odd considering the way his team rallied in the 2nd half, holding the Kings to 36 points over the final two periods to win the game 101-91. He was not protesting the way his team closed, of course, but rather the way they played to dig themselves the hole — at one point they trailed by as many as 19 — to need that type of 2nd half performance in the first place.

This is what Walton is trying to teach and just as lessons can be learned from losses, they also can from wins. Walton did not demean his players or question their manhood, but he did let them know coming out with lackluster energy or attention to detail is not who they want to be as a team. He drilled that lesson after a W and I’m sure he was happy to be able to do so. But, and I’ve harped on this all season, Walton is clearly coaching for something bigger than wins this season (even if wins clearly matter to him — more on that later). He’s coaching to instill his team with the right mindset, the right habits, to have them truly turn the corner and become competitive over the long haul.

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FIGHTING SPIRIT. They just keep doing it.

After a letdown against the Mavericks at home, the Lakers have won four of their last five games as they made an impressive comeback against the Kings in Sacramento, 101-91. The thing is… it really looked bleak early on.

The Lakers looked like they would either watch paint dry or watch leaves fall from a tree. They looked lethargic, fatigued, and a step slower in the first half. The young guns had 12 turnovers. Sactown took advantage; nobody seemed to be able to stop DeMarcus Cousins. He scored 18 of his 28 points in the first half. The Lakers were down as many as 19 points before they had a late surge to close out the half.

D’Angelo Russell, who looked indecisive in the first 24 minutes, caught a bit of fire as he scored eight of his 17 points in the first six minutes of the third. The Lakers did a much better job guarding Boogie as Timofey Mozgov got more physical and they did timely double-teams. In about a nine-minute stretch between the third and the fourth, the Kings only scored two points. Boogie finally did come alive in the fourth quarter but by that time, it was too late. After a deadlock at 82, the Lakers broke away with a 10-0 run that was led by Lou Williams and Nick Young. Sweet Lou scored 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and continues to be that incredible veteran presence. And the resurrection of Nick Young continues. He continues to put a lot of effort on the defensive end. Swaggy P scored the last five points of that aforementioned 10-0 run that pretty much put the game out of reach. He scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half.

I know Luke Walton is still figuring out his rotations as the season goes on. It definitely helped that Larry Nance, Jr. came back for this game after he passed the concussion protocol (who, by the way, did his role as the energy guy off the bench with seven boards). But I like that Luke stayed with the hot guys. The line-up that the Lakers had during the closing stretch was Mozgov, Brandon Ingram (his length bothered the Kings on the boards and on defense), Julius Randle (he still continues to attack; he had 15 and 8), Lou Will, and Nick. I know most coaches would go back to his regular starters but I thought it was a great decision for Walton to stick with the line-up that got them the lead. And it was so encouraging to see all the other guys cheer for the team. Guys, they are so so much fun.

The Lakers did end with 21 turnovers; that is an extremely high number. And I would like it if they could get off to better starts in the game. But I like that the Lakers never stop playing; they have been in every game by the fourth quarter this season. The fight never stops with them and it is so much appreciated by the coaching staff and the fans.

They will face the New Orleans Pelicans next in Louisiana. Those birds just got their first win earlier today so they’re going to be hungry to extend that marvelous one-game winning streak.

The baby Lakers are 5-4. Over .500 after nine games. Quite a pleasant surprise.

I’m going to keep this brief because, well, I just am.

The Lakers went for their 4th straight victory on Tuesday night, but fell short against the Mavs. The game itself was a back and forth affair and one where the Lakers found themselves “in it” until the end. If going down a certain road of analysis, this is a good sign. This team competes and finds a way to either hang around or be in control long enough to make wins possible. In some games they’ve pulled it out, in others they haven’t.

Tuesday was one of those nights and there’s nothing wrong with that, really. This team was projected to win around 27 games this year. The expectation, then, should be that more often than not Tuesday’s result will be the default, not the exception.

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The Lakers are now above .500 after they beat a very game Phoenix Suns squad, 119-108. They are now 3-0 at Staples Center.

The game wasn’t exactly pretty throughout. The Suns started out of sync as they had 11 turnovers in the first half. But the Lakers were also giving the ball away and ended with 13 of those in the first 24 minutes. Still, the Lakers’ switching and rotating defense gave the Suns fits early. Phoenix only had 15 points in the first quarter and the Lakers carried a double digit lead entering the second half.

In the stretches where they did play good ball, it was a very beautiful sight. Sometimes, you just sit and smile at the Lakers’ passing. You see guys like Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson finding open guys at the last second. And then you see that pretty forward pass by Julius Randle to Timofey Mozgov for the slam. The ball movement is what makes this team go and coach Luke Walton has done a very good job instilling this type of culture.

What’s great about this Laker team is that everyone can contribute (the Lakers bench outscored the Suns, 47-9). Nick Young started out with a steal, a basket, and an offensive board. He ended with 22 points and had that aforementioned big four-point play. Russell (11-5-6 but 2 for 11 FG) struggled with his shot again but he came up big in the fourth with a three and some good defense. Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams (veteran presence!) combined for 32 points off the bench. Julius Randle continues to play excellent ball (18 points, 5 rebounds). Timofey Mozgov (14 points, 8 boards) put in 22 quality minutes with some cuts to the basket, good passes, and hustle on the glass. And Brandon Ingram and Tarik Black contributed a few good plays.

Still, the Lakers had a tough time stopping T.J. Warren (22 points) and especially Devin Booker (39 points). Booker is going to be a stud and, really, he helped keep the Suns in the game. They cut the lead to 93-92 before the Lakers scored 9 straight. In that middle of that run was a huge four-point play by Nick Young after D’Angelo Russell ripped the ball off of Warren’s hands. Booker was scoreless for nearly six minutes after Walton put Nick Young and Jordan Clarkson on him.

The play of the game was definitely right after Randle got into it with Tyson Chandler. The Suns were within striking distance at 104-97 with 1:38 left. Nearly the entire building was looking forward to a Randle/Chandler one-on-one battle but once Booker cheated off the wing, Randle whipped the pass to an open Clarkson for the clinching three-pointer. It was a clever move by Randle; veteran move, really. I also want to note that the Lakers outboarded the Suns, 51-40, and I noted the hustle of Mozgov. Seven Lakers had five or more boards in this game. That is some scrappiness by the team.

Meanwhile, all the positive vibes and thoughts to Larry Nance, Jr. He bumped his head on the floor in a scrum in the first half. Nance was diagnosed with a concussion; he never returned to the game and is out for their next game on Tuesday.

These baby Lakers are so fun right now and I’m not sure if anyone expected a three-game winning streak this early in the season. They have the chance to extend that winning streak against Dallas, who just won their first game earlier in the night.

It’s easy to love basketball when you’re having fun AND winning, right?

The Lakers pulled out a surprise win over the Warriors on Friday, not only by being ahead when the clock hit triple zeros but by doing so in a wire to wire fashion with a 20 point final margin. Before the game, I wrote that I was only looking for good execution and the types of incremental improvements I think is the goal of this season. Instead, I saw the Lakers play quite well on both sides of the ball and punish a Warriors’ team who shot poorly and defended even worse than that.

The Warriors’ performance might lead some to give less credit to the Lakers than would typically be the case after such a win. And when you rewatch the game and see some of the open looks the Warriors missed, I can understand that sentiment to an extent. However, what the tape also revealed was the Lakers doing so many little things well, leveraging some of their advantages against a Dubs team who is simply not as deep as previous contending versions, and also countering every run with a big bucket or stop of their own to hold off any hard charge.

These are the things winning teams do often and the Warriors game marks the second consecutive contest in which the Lakers exhibited these traits. Now, I’m not ready to call this a trend and the Lakers have a ways to go before they can be considered much more than the type of pesky opponent who will play hard and stay in games — pulling some out you do not expect. However, if we start to see these things more consistently, it will force many (including me) to reevaluate our projections for what is possible for them.

But that is a discussion for down the line. For now, here are 10 thoughts from a game I did not see coming, but was more than happy to be wrong about.

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Well, well, well. That was REALLY fun.

The Lakers shocked the Warriors for the second straight time at Staples, 117-97 (remember that they handed the Warriors one of their nine losses last March in that building). In fact, the Lakers got off to an 8-0 start and they honestly never looked back.

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In all their losses thus far, the Lakers found themselves trying to dig out of a hole. In Atlanta, they got down by 11 in the first half.

This time around, the comeback was complete as they overwhelmed the Hawks, 123-116.

The theme thus far for the Lakers this season is that they hang around. If you dump a double-digit lead on them, they’re going to keep coming back. I would like them to break out of that habit as the season goes on but what I want them to continue is that FIGHTING SPIRIT I had mentioned in the past. They seem to have that sense of urgency in the second half and it was too much for the Hawks, who lost their first game of the season.

Initially, they had a hard time stopping Dwight Howard. He did finish with 31 points and 11 boards and got some of the remaining Laker bigs (remember that Timofey Mozgov is hurt) in foul trouble (Ivica Zubac picked up four fouls in his first-ever NBA half). They also had a difficult time subduing Tim Hardaway, Jr. He had 26 points and had a five-point play late in the third that potentially swung the momentum of the game (2/3 FTs, offensive board, then a three-pointer).

But the Lakers went bonkers in the fourth quarter. They went on a 14-2 run to take a seven-point lead. I had remarked on Twitter that Lou Williams looked nonchalant putting up shots in the first half but he looked the complete opposite in the fourth. Lou scored 16 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and was a steady veteran presence for L.A. Sure, we were fearful of the Lakers blowing a lead late because of their youth. But they kept their poise and made the winning plays. Inside a minute left, Dennis Schroder’s lay-up got spiked by Julius Randle and that was followed by Nick Young’s game-clinching three (to put them up 7 with 17 seconds left) on an assist by D’Angelo Russell. The Lakers won their first game on the road.

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The Lakers played their second consecutive game on the road and a late run killed their chances as the Thunder beat them, 113-96.

Oklahoma City went on a 13-0 run after the Lakers, who played from behind for the most part, cut it to a 95-91 deficit with 4:30 left. Russell Westbrook scored seven points on that decisive run; he continued his Destruction Tour to the tune of 33 points, 12 rebounds, and 16 assists. But where the Thunder won the game was in transition and in the paint. OKC scored 62 points inside the key (44 for the Lakers) and that’s how they built the lead in the first place. And the Thunder in transition couldn’t be stopped (26 fastbreak points compared to 9 for the Lakers). The game was sloppy at times; Lakers had 22 giveaways compared to the Thunder’s 20.

I applaud the Lakers’ effort on defense but, once again, the fundamentals weren’t there, which contributed to the big deficit. There were times when the Lakers were leaving a shooter open with a hard, unnecessary double team. There were also times where they gave too much space to the designated shooters. Maybe some of it was by design because OKC isn’t exactly full of great shooters (they went 9 for 26, .346 overall) but I wouldn’t leave an NBA player that’s capable of shooting a three any sort of breathing room.

The Lakers missed some bunnies early and while there was a time where they were able to make some threes, they weren’t great overall in that department (which, once again, contributed to OKC’s big lead; they went 7 for 32, .219). They only shot .402 from the field. Some of the Lakers’ turnovers were also silly. They threw four lobs that went into the hands of the Thunder. Lob City they are not; the Lakers aren’t even Lob Street.

Even with all of those mistakes, there were still some encouraging things to see. I liked Julius Randle’s aggression early (ended with 20 points). Nick Young’s (16 points) defensive effort can’t be ignored, even if his shooting was up and down. Jordan Clarkson (14 points) bounced back nicely. And D’Angelo Russell (20-5-5) is unshakable. They were able to cut the deficit to four twice before they were overwhelmed by those Thunder runs. Also, hi, Jose Calderon. Welcome to the NBA season.

Of course, you want to see continued improvement from this young team. Hopefully, they can shoot better in the next few games. I would love to see the Lakers box out better. I would love to see them continue to fix and improve that pick-and-roll defense. I would love to see them take care of the ball better. And no erratic lobs, of course. Still, Brandon Ingram throwing a lob to Metta World Peace for, I guess for a dunk, is high comedy. (On a positive note, I’m glad Ingram is okay.)

The Lakers are now 1-2. They go to Indiana next and they play on Tuesday. Paul George, Myles Turner, and company await the young team. Maybe they’ll fare better this time.

In the meantime, go get some wings and enjoy some Sunday Night Football.